FRISCO, Texas — For all the tinkering new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore might do, for all the time together quarterback Dak Prescott will have with wide receiver Amari Cooper and for all the talk about what the return of tight end Jason Witten and the addition of wide receiver Randall Cobb can mean, the story of the Dallas Cowboys’ offense will remain running back Ezekiel Elliott.
The Cowboys’ success runs through Elliott and an offensive line that should be boosted by the return of Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, who missed last season with an autoimmune disease.
But what about the players behind Elliott?
The Cowboys plugged holes along the defensive line, offensive line, at safety, wide receiver, and tight end with their work in free agency so far, but they have not found a backup to Elliott, who has won two rushing titles in three seasons.
Unless you count Darius Jackson and Jordan Chunn, who spent most or all of last season on the practice squad, as realistic options.
Rod Smith served as Elliott’s backup last season and the Cowboys have not made much of an attempt to re-sign him. They have not gone after other free-agent backs, either.
So that leaves the NFL draft.
Among the Cowboys’ top-30 visitors this week are Alabama’s Damien Harris, Ohio State’s Mike Weber and Memphis’ Tony Pollard, according to sources.
All should be available when the Cowboys pick in the second round at No. 58 overall, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken there.
Harris had two 1,000-yard seasons at Alabama and had 876 yards with nine touchdowns last season. He is not a breakaway threat, but he can pick up the dirty yards and is considered a solid zone-scheme runner.
Weber went to the same Detroit high school as Jourdan Lewis (Cass Tech) and followed Elliott at Ohio State. He had 1,096 yards as a redshirt freshman and 954 yards in his final season. There’s more substance than flash in how he runs. He can handle what is put in front of him but is likely a third-day pick.
Pollard is more of a gadget guy than Harris or Weber. He scored touchdowns on runs, receptions and returns last season. The last part is intriguing only to a degree because the return game has been mitigated with rule changes. Still, the Cowboys have to figure out a way to get more production on kick and punt returns, and he showed some vision as a runner.
If the Cowboys want a runner like Elliott, then Harris and Weber are the more likely picks. If they want a complement to Elliott, provided they open up their scheme under Moore, then Pollard would be the pick.